Was Archie's birth the clearest signal Harry and Meghan would quit as senior royals?

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent
Harry and Meghan did things differently when Archie was born. (Getty Images)

Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor is achieving many royal firsts.

As he turns one, he can claim to be the first royal dual citizen, the first royal in the direct line of succession to live in another country and the first to be born in secret.

Archie was only eight months old when his parents, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, announced they wanted to step back as senior members of the Royal Family.

But there may have been signs from the handling of his birth that they were already planning a dramatic move.

Unlike other recent royal births, the location of mother and son wasn’t known until the birth certificate was released.

Read more: How Archie's LA life with Harry and Meghan will be different to his other royal cousins

Archie's first photo call was two days after he was born. (Getty Images)

In April 2019, a month before Archie was due, the Sussexes sent out a statement informing the media that details would be private before the birth.

The statement said: “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are very grateful for the goodwill they have received from people throughout the United Kingdom and around the world as they prepare to welcome their baby.

“Their royal highnesses have taken a personal decision to keep the plans around the arrival of their baby private.

“The Duke and Duchess look forward to sharing the exciting news with everyone once they have had an opportunity to celebrate privately as a new family.”

When the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth each time, she was known to be at the Lindo Wing, and crowds of journalists and photographers waited outside.

Read more: Prince William and Kate mark Archie's first birthday with throwback photo

It led to three photo calls, one for each child, with the new parents on the steps of the hospital.

So Meghan’s decision to have a more private birth was a notable difference. Archie had already been born when the world’s media found out she had gone into labour.

Meghan also gave birth at Portland Hospital, instead of the Lindo Wing at St Mary’s Hospital. Beatrice and Eugenie were the last royals to be born in Portland Hospital.

It was also significant that she and Harry waited two days to present their newborn. Rather than hours after, as Kate has had to do (she called it “terrifying”) Meghan and Harry spent two days with their son in private, before a photo call with just a few members of the press, at Windsor Castle.

Harry and Meghan also chose to refuse a royal title or the HRH styling for Archie. This was not a royal first, as Princess Anne did the same for her children.

Read more: Archie Mountbatten-Windsor turns one: 14 pictures of Prince Harry and Meghan's son

But what was an additional surprise was that Archie wasn’t given the use of one of Harry’s titles, the Earl of Dumbarton.

He was also given relatively few names. Usually royals have two middle names but Archie has just one - Harrison, meaning son of Harry.

His name reflected a commitment by his parents to a private upbringing - but perhaps the extent of that wasn’t so clear at the time.

Harry and Meghan took Archie to South Africa. (WireImage)

Read more: Why are Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepping back as senior royals?

His christening, two months after his birth, was also private, with press not invited to take pictures of the family before and after the service. They had been invited to Prince Louis’s a year earlier.

And Harry and Meghan have never confirmed the name of his godparents.

However, Archie was the youngest royal to ever be taken on a tour, when he accompanied his parents to South Africa in October 2019 at just four months old.

But that tour became dominated by the interview his mother did in which she talked of her struggle in the spotlight, and by the announcement of her decision to sue Associated Newspapers Ltd.

Then came the sabbatical. Rather than spend Archie’s first Christmas in the traditional royal way, the new parents took their baby to Canada for a few weeks off.

The announcement they wanted to step back was a shock to many. But perhaps the clues were there much earlier than it seemed.